Cruising the past looks at rail travel in America aboard the Pullman Company sleeping cars – when trains were truly first class and cross-country rail trips were a cruise.
THE PULLMAN COMPANY
George Pullman was inspired by an overnight train ride from Buffalo to Westfield, New York to design an improved passenger railcar. He established his company in 1862 and built luxury sleeping cars which featured carpeting, draperies, upholstered chairs, libraries and card tables and an unparalleled level of customer service. Once a household name due to their large market share, the Pullman Company is also known for the bitter Pullman Strike staged by their workers and union leaders in 1894. During an economic downturn, Pullman reduced hours and wages but not rents leading to the strike. Workers joined the American Railway Union, led by Eugene V. Debs.
After George Pullman’s death in 1898, Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln became company president. The company closed its factory in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago in 1955. Pullman purchased the Standard Steel Car Company in 1930 amid the Great Depression, and the merged entity was known as Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company. The company ceased production after the Amtrak Superliner cars in 1982 and its remaining designs were purchased in 1987 when it was absorbed by Bombardier.
The best years for Pullman were the mid 1920s. In 1925 the fleet grew to 9800 cars. Twenty-eight thousand conductors and twelve thousand porters were employed by the Pullman Co. A Pullman timeline is at The Pullman Virtual Museum
Pullman Car & Manufacturing Co., had been organized on June 18, 1924, from the previous Pullman Company Manufacturing Department, to consolidate the car building interests of The Pullman Co. The parent company, The Pullman Co., was reorganized as Pullman, Inc., on June 21, 1927.
Pullman purchased controlling interest in Standard Steel Car Company in 1929.
Pullman built its last standard heavyweight sleeping car in February 1931.
On December 26, 1934, Pullman Car & Manufacturing (along with several other Pullman, Inc. subsidiaries), merged with Standard Steel Car Co. (and it subsidiaries) to form the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company.
Standard Steel Car Co., had been organized on January 2, 1902, to operate a railroad car manufacturing facility at Butler, Pennsylvania, (and after 1906, a facility at Hammond, Indiana), and was reorganized as a subsidiary of Pullman, Inc., on March 1, 1930.
In 1940, just as orders for lightweight cars were increasing and sleeping car traffic was growing, the United States Department of Justice filed an anti-trust complaint against Pullman Incorporated in the U. S. District Court at Philadelphia (Civil Action No. 994). The government sought to separate the company’s sleeping car operations from its manufacturing activities. In 1944 the court concurred, ordering Pullman Incorporated to divest itself of either the Pullman Company (operating) or the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company (manufacturing). After three years of negotiations, the Pullman Company was sold to a consortium of fifty-seven railroads for around $40 million. (http://www.newberry.org/collections/PullmanGuide.pdf)
Pullman-Standard built its last lightweight passenger cars in April 1956, that being Lot 6959 for Union Pacific. The company continued to market and build cars for commuter rail and subway service and Superliners for Amtrak as late as the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Beginning in 1974, Pullman delivered 750 75-foot stainless steel subway cars to the New York City Transit Authority. Designated R46 by their procurement contract, these cars, along with the R44 subway car built by St. Louis Car Company, were designed for 70 mph running in a new subway line under Second Avenue in Manhattan. After construction of the Second Avenue Subway was deferred, the Transit Authority assigned the cars to other lines. Pullman also built subway cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which assigned them to the Red Line. Pullman-Standard was spun off from Pullman, Inc., as Pullman Technology, Inc., in 1981, and was sold to Bombardier in 1987.
After the 1944 breakup, Pullman, Inc., remained in place as the parent company, with the following subsidiaries: The Pullman Company for passenger car operations (but not passenger car ownership, which was passed to the member railroads), and Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Co., for passenger car and freight car manufacturing; along with a large freight car leasing operation still directly under the parent company’s control. Pullman, Inc., remained separate until a merger with Wheelbrator in late 1980, which lead to the separation of Pullman interests in early and mid-1981.
Operations of the Pullman Company sleeper cars ceased and all leases were terminated on December 31, 1968. On January 1, 1969, the Pullman Company was dissolved and all assets were liquidated. (The most visible result on many railroads, including Union Pacific, was that the Pullman name was removed from the letterboard of all Pullman-owned cars.) An auction of all Pullman remaining assets was held at the Pullman plant near Chicago in early 1970. The Pullman, Inc., company remained in place until 1981 or 1982 to close out all remaining liabilities and claims, operating from an office in Denver.
The passenger car designs of Pullman-Standard were spun off into a separate company called Pullman Technology, Inc., in 1982. Using the Transit America trade name, Pullman Technology continued to market its Comet car design (first built for New Jersey Department of Transportation in 1970) for commuter operations until 1987, when Bombardier purchased Pullman Technology to gain control of its designs and patents. As of late 2004, Pullman Technology, Inc., remained a subsidiary of Bombardier.
Pullman, Inc., spun off its large fleet of leased freight rail cars in April 1981 as Pullman Leasing Company, which later became part of ITEL Leasing, retaining the original PLCX reporting mark. ITEL Leasing (including the PLCX reporting mark) was later changed to GE Leasing.
In mid 1981, Pullman, Inc., spun off its freight car manufacturing interests as Pullman Transportation Company. Several plants were closed and in 1984, the remaining railcar manufacturing plants and the Pullman-Standard freight car designs and patents were sold to Trinity Industries.
After separating itself from its rail car manufacturing interests, Pullman, Inc., continued as a diversified corporation, with later mergers and acquisitions, including a merger in late 1980 with Wheelabrator-Frye, Inc., in which Pullman became a subsidiary of Wheelabrator-Frye, Inc. In January 1982, Wheelabrator-Frye merged with M. W. Kellogg, a builder of large, cast-in-place smokestacks, silos and chimneys. Wheelabrator-Frye retained both Pullman and Kellogg as direct subsidiaries. In 1990, the entire Wheelabrator-Frye group was sold to Waste Management, Inc. The Pullman-Kellogg interests were spun off by Waste Management as Pullman Power Products Corporation, and by late 2004 that company was doing business as Pullman Power LLC, a subsidiary of Structural Group, a specialty contractor.
As a non-Pullman side note, other construction engineering portions of Pullman-Kellogg were spun off as a new M. W. Kellogg Corporation, and in December 1998, became part of the merger that formed Kellogg, Brown & Root, a specialty contractor which itself was later sold to Halliburton, an oil well servicing company. In an eventual competitive move, other Kellogg engineering interests were merged with Rust Engineering becoming Kellogg Rust, which itself became The Henley Group, and which today is part of Washington Group International, a specialty contracting firm that competes directly with Halliburton worldwide. Washington Group International is the successor to the Morrison Knudsen civil engineering and contracting corporation, and is also the owner of Montana RailLink.
After the last of the Kellogg interests of Pullman-Kellogg were spun off, and after the railcar manufacturing plants were sold, and with the formal dissolution of the old Pullman Company (the operating company from the 1944 split), the remaining portions of the Pullman interests were spun off in May 1985 by Waste Management, Inc., into a new Pullman Company. In November 1985, Pullman bought Peabody International and the new company took the new name of Pullman Peabody. In April 1987 (after Pullman Technology was sold to Bombardier), the name was changed back to Pullman Company, which in September 1987 merged with Clevite Industries. By 1996, Pullman Co., with its Clevite subsidiary, was almost solely a supplier of automotive elastomer (rubber) parts, and in July 1996 the company was sold to Tenneco. As of late 2004, Pullman Co., as a manufacturer of automotive elastomer products, was still under the control of Tenneco Automotive.
The Pullman Company is also remembered for its porters. The company hired African Americans for this position. While still a menial job in many respects, it offered better pay and security than most jobs open to African Americans at the time, in addition to a chance for travel, and was a well regarded job in the African-American community of the time. Pullman porters were unionized in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters under A. Philip Randolph. All of the pullman attendants, regardless of their true name, were referred to as “George” by the travelers. This tradition finds its origins after the company’s founder, George Pullman. The Pullman company was the largest employer of African Americans in the United States.